Currently, researchers found, severe flooding is disproportionately harming low-income White communities in the Appalachian region, particularly in West Virginia. Over the next 30 years, the study shows that risk shifting disproportionately toward primarily Black communities along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.
“Not everyone is bearing the same burden here,” Oliver Wing, lead author of the study and chief research officer at Fathom, a flood modeling group, told CNN. “As flooding patterns shift and the climate changes, we’re basically telling African American communities to shoulder greater burdens again — so there’s a fundamental social justice issue there.”
“It’s the specificity at which they had the confidence in pointing out who is going to be affected, as well as the difference in the causes of development and population growth, because of the improvements they’ve made to their models, that’s important,” Tellman told CNN. “That level of specificity helps us understand what to do in terms of investments and policies.”
Monday’s study “adds to the larger understanding of the impacts of flood risk by bringing in population characteristics and tying those as an additional dimension to the overall risk and economic implications that we generally research at First Street,” Jeremy Porter, a co-author on the study and the chief research officer at First Street, told CNN.
“Even if we were to instantly decarbonize, if we just stopped it all together in some crazy world, then most of what we projected would be completely unaffected by such action,” he said. “These changes that we’re projecting are fundamentally climatically locked in and no decarbonization is going to stop this.”
Wing adds it all boils down to major investment in adaptation, whether it comes in the form of buyout policies or building defenses on coasts.
“We need to get these communities the resources to adapt, and that’s a problem for policymakers,” he added. “They have to ensure that they’re giving the communities that we highlight in this report the means to adapt to this risk, because they shoulder an outsized burden of what’s going on right now and in the future.”